Whisky is very popular but also quite rare. The spirit is only produced in approximately 7 regions around the world, including Scotland, Ireland, USA, Japan, India, Canada, and Australia. Each region employs a different process as a well varying ingredients in their method of preparation. Knowing where you whisky comes from can help you imagine determine the general style and palate of the region, and may be instrumental in helping to determine your preferences going forward.
Whisky gets better with time and maturation. Though it only takes a few days to distill a barrel of whisky, you may find that some batches are aged for up to 20 years (as with certain Scotch). The thought behind this is the longer it sits in the barrel, the better it tastes, according to experts. As would be expected, however, the age of different whiskies varies, by both type and region. Check the bottle for your whisky’s age. Those matured for 2+ years are a good indicator of quality.
Whisky varies in color, but the difference between a white and dark brown whisky is often whether or not the barrel in which it is stored was charred, not necessarily age as typically thought. A whisky’s color will often give you hints about how it tastes. Lighter or white whiskies are usually noted for their fruitiness, whereas dark whiskies usually have notes such as vanilla and caramel.
That brings us to our next point. Before sipping a whisky (a good whisky should be sipped not gulped), take a whiff of the aromas in the glass. This is essentially the first “taste” of the spirit; in fact, certain research suggests that flavor is 90% about smell, so this is an essential part. After pouring, allow the whisky to open up then sniff. The type of glass and temperature are factors which will enhance the whisky’s aromatic qualities.
The next thing to look for in a whisky is body, as in how thick or viscous it is. First, swirling it in your glass and watching how it pours down the sides when you stop will help measure its fullness. Afterwards, sip and savor it in the mouth. A more full bodied whisky will feel thicker and are said to have more complexity and overall flavor.
The last part is taste. After you’ve savored the whisky, swished it around in your mouth, drank it down and experienced its burn, what are the notes that stand out most to you? What can you tell from its aging or distillation process? Everyone is unique, and like art, there are no right or wrong answers. For the full experience (yes, whisky is an experience not just another drink), try to identify something new with each sip that you didn’t notice before.